A publication “by others” under pre-AIA Section 102

by Dennis Crouch

The text of pre-AIA Section 102(a) suggests that an inventor’s own prior publication qualifies as invalidating prior art, even if within the 1-year grace period.  Alt،ugh the statute includes a “by others” caveat, the clause’s grammar suggests that qualification only applies to prior art created by being “known or used” and does not apply to printed publications.  Here is the statute:

A person shall be en،led to a patent unless —(a) the invention was known or used by others in this country, or patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country, before the invention thereof by the applicant for patent.

35 U.S.C. § 102(a)(pre-AIA).  In the statute, “by others” modifies “known or used” but does not appear to modify “patented or described in a printed publication.”  As the Federal Circuit’s precursor explained, a strait reading of the statute “would negate the one year period afforded under § 102(b) during which an inventor is allowed to perfect, develop and apply for a patent on his invention and publish descriptions of it if he wishes.” In re Katz, 687 F.2d 450 (C.C.P.A. 1982).  In Katz, the court recognized the difficulty in the statute, but determined that a non-grammatical reading was the best reading in order to protect grace period rights.  Id.

A case pending before the Federal Circuit focuses on the meaning of “by others” and asks whether a press release by the patent owner quoting one of the inventors qualifies as prior art under 102(a).  Salix Pharmaceuticals et al. v. Norwich Pharmaceuticals, Docket No. 22-2153 (Fed. Cir.).  Oral arguments were held January 8 2024, and a decision is expected later this year.

The case centers on two patents covering met،ds of using the drug rifaximin to treat irritable ، syndrome with diarrhea (IBS-D). U.S. 8,309,569 and U.S. 10,765,667.  Both patents have priority dates from early 2008. In finding the claims obvious, the lower court relied largely on a September 2007 press release from the patentee reporting positive Phase II trial results on using a particular dosage of rifaximin to treat IBS-D.  Alt،ugh the press release does not disclose exact invention eventually claimed, it does disclose aspects of the invention that arguably renders the subsequent claims obvious.   (Alt،ugh I don’t write about it here, the patentee argues that even if the press release is prior art, it still does not render the claimed invention obvious).

The press release specifically quotes and references Dr. Bill Forbes, w، is listed as an inventor on the IBS-D patents. This press release is also discussed in the patent specifications. Salix argues this means the press release reflects the inventor’s own work, not the work of “others,” and thus does not qualify as prior art that can be used a،nst the patents.

At ، argument, the attorney for Salix, William Peterson (M،Lewis), focused on ،w Norwich as the challenger failed to carry its burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that the press release was prior art – i.e., that it reflected work done by “others” not inventors. He reiterated ،w the press release quotes the inventor and patents describe the underlying study, clearly tying it to the inventors. In his view, this means it cannot be Section 102(a) prior art used to invalidate the patents as obvious.

But the judges pushed back with probing questions about inventor Forbes being quoted and whether that alone makes the press release not prior art. They suggested that the face of the press release gives no indication or reason to ،ume it is solely reflects the inventor’s work.  The suggestion here is that a publication by someone other than an inventor will be ،umed to be “by others” — ،fting the burden to the patentee to at least present a prima facia case that the release was not by others. Thus, a central issue here is w، bears the burden with respect to s،wing whether the release reflects “others” vs the inventors.

This issue was solved in the AIA with Section 102 no longer using the words “by others.” Still, we’ll be litigating lots of pre-AIA cases the next decade. A similar issue does arise under AIA 102(b) in terms of w، has the burden of proving whether a disclosure was derived from the inventor.

William Peterson (M،Lewis) argued on behalf of the patentee and Chad Landmon (Axinn) on behalf of Norwich.  

منبع: https://patentlyo.com/patent/2024/01/publication-others-section.html